It’s no surprise if you’ve already heard of “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman; his book has sold millions of copies and changed the way many people relate with their spouse and children. I’d known the general concept for years when I left on my mission because my parents were big fans of the book, but it was as a sister missionary that I applied the principles more than any time in my life up to that point. I had to live and work with complete strangers 24/7, and speaking my companions’ love languages helped us become friends faster and have more meaningful and beneficial relationships in the short time we were together.
Whether you’re familiar with the five love languages already or this is a brand-new concept, here’s a brief explanation of each love language and how you can better relate to each mission companion by following the basic principles.
Words of Affirmation
When someone’s love language is words of affirmation, they feel most loved when they are complimented. Praise and verbal confirmation of hard work is the most rewarding thing you can do for a companion with this love language. Make a conscious effort to point out their positive characteristics and strengths, such as working hard on the difficult mission language or always getting up on time. It may not come naturally to you, but your companion will appreciate how you notice and comment on their efforts. Saying “I love you!” out loud is important in strengthening your relationship, and writing kind notes also conveys in words your love for a companion.
A general principle is that a person’s love language has the potential to do the most harm as well as good. For example, if your companion’s love language is words of affirmation, your praise will mean the world to her, but your criticism will be the most devastating thing for her to hear. Be cautious of your words and tone when you give feedback. If another person’s words have a negative effect on your companion, understand how much she is hurting and pay special attention to your reassuring words.
A person whose love language is gifts will feel the most loved by you when she receives a physical token of your affection. However, a “gift” doesn’t need to be expensive or cost money at all; it truly is the thought that counts. You could print out a picture for your companion of a fun memory, treat her to a small dessert on P-day, or ask someone at home to send her some extra mail. You might even plan ahead and bring a few small items from your hometown or home country in your suitcase to give companions. A sister whose love language is gifts will be thrilled any time you go out of your way to give her a special memento of your hard work together.
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